Monday, January 05, 2009

PERSEVERE, James 1:5

James wrote, "blessed is the man who perseveres under pressure,..." The first audience to read James' message was "dispersed" to many places because it had been persecuted in various ways: government opposition, Jewish and Pagan religious opposition. The design or purpose of persecution by these forces was the silence the Christian population. This could not happen and so James reminds the Christians to persevere.

James says that God's approval with a "crown of life" awaits the Christians who stand firm through this adversity. And hermeneutically, contextually, scripturally, and common sense[ically] it meant that those that shrunk back from their confession of Christ would NOT receive these blessings [I am aware that some people don't like such conclusions, but losing salvation is the consequence of turning back to the world]. That is Satan's design to minimize the effectiveness of Christians in the world and to bring as many to hell that he possibly can. Christians must persevere so that the Good News is heard by all and so that they may receive life eternal.

Even if we are not suffering from government sanctioned persecution, our faith is tested in many ways. In all things, we must persevere. When people disagree with you doctrinally, persevere. When pressures from work or troubles at home test your faith, persevere. Life isn't always easy, so persevere. And keep your chin up. James says, "consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials" (James 1:2). The easy course is the wide road that leads to destruction, not to the crown of life. So accept that there will be trials and joyfully proceed in your faith.

It is imperative that we address our own weaknesses. James tells us the key to persevering is realizing that our own lusts will trip us up. If we lusts for comfort and ease, for the acceptance of others, or for material stuff, we will fall short and lose our way. It does not matter what IT is, by giving into lusts we will not persevere. Dealing with our own lusts, and putting such things away, is the way to short-circuit Satan's plans. Yes, the temptation may be coming from Satan (Not God, who can't be tempted and does not tempt anyone), but it is tailor-made to attack our weakest point, where we lusts. James wrote, "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust" (James 1:14). It's not conducive to be blaming God for not removing all of the difficulties in life. It's not helpful to think that that everything is supposed to be "rosy" when you are a Christian. You will be opposed and life is going to come at you. It's not conducive to lose sight of the real enemy by blaming others. I need to take a look in the mirror (Jas. 1:23) and ask myself will I persevere when living my faith gets hard? Will I use the difficult times to draw near to God and trusts Him?
"If any of you lacks wisdom (presumably, in understanding the wisdom being spoken relative to trials, DM), let him ask of God..." (James 1:5).
James reminds the Christians that they are not going to be victorious by going it alone. During times of trial, we want to run and avoid the confrontation. We want to smooth over the problems and make things better. But avoidance is not always possible or advisable. We can't avoid the world and Christians can't avoid living for God. And so they need to joyfully accept the trials and draw near to God in prayer. When Christians pray, with no doubts, they expose themselves to a source of strength that the world and all of its naysayers cannot comprehend. This is the way to persevere.

"Persevering under pressure" is what Christians do. They don't give up. They don't let lusts and doubts hinder their faith. God is pleased to watch over and help those who are drawing near to Him. And in the future, He will award to them the crown of life. When you boss is unreasonable and you want to curse him, keep working your very best for God. When your spouse gives you helpful criticism and you want to lash out, pray for God to help you recognize the good. When false teachers and malcontents tell you you are dupe for believing and going to church, pray for them. When sickness racks your body and you want to blame God, give Him thanks instead for all the good He has done in your life. Persevere and God will BLESS you.

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